on October 17, 2000
It's always interesting how the Parmount Trek DVDs work out. So far, there hasn't been one that contains two BAD episodes of Star Trek. And every once in a while, you get lucky and get one with a GREAT episode and a pretty good one. Such is the case here.
The GREAT episode, of course, is Norman Spinrad's superb "The Doomsday Machine." Essentially a ship-bound story designed to cut budget corners, this is one of classic Trek's finest hours. Featuring the cast in high form and the addition of guest star William Winham as the obsessed Commodore Matt Decker, the tension is palatable. All the elements of great sci-fi and classic Trek are on display and the conflict between Decker and Spock is not to be missed. Yes, the effects do look a bit dated, but when you've got a superb story and well realized, three-dimensional characters, you can overlook such flaws.
As for the good episode, Wolf in the Fold is it. Dealing with Scotty and giving our favorite engineer a bit more to do that talk about his engines, this episode lacks the punch is should have. And coupling with the Doomsday Machine will bring it down by comparison. But it's still an enjoyable enough adventure that is worth viewing by any Trek fan.
Tom Keough certainly doesn't know what he's talking about. His review makes The Doomsday Machine, an episode almost universally admired by Star Trek fans, sound like a dud. I agree with Keough that Robert Ryan would have made a terrific Matt Decker, but I think that William Windom fills the role extremely well. A lesser actor would have merely inspired dislike from the audience when he wrests control of the Enterprise from Mr. Spock. However, Windom does such a good job of establishing Commodore Decker's pain and guilt over the loss of his crew in the early part of the episode, he creates a sympathetic character that still holds the audience's sympathy even when he is making a suicidal Ahab-like attack on the Doomsday Machine. William Windom, in my opinion, does just as good a job as Robert Ryan would have. His presence helps, rather than hurts, the story. As far as Keough's claim that the Doomsday Machine looks like "moldy cannoli," all I can say is that moldy cannoli must look pretty scary.
Well, at least Keough does seem to like Wolf in the Fold. This is a far-fetched, but entertaining whodunit. Like Keough, I liked the performance by John Feidler. Like William Windom, he is a veteran character actor who always manages to add a great deal to any film/TV episode in which he appears.
In fact, my own (minor) complaint is with the cover. Nichelle Nichols is pictured on the front, but does not appear in either episode on the DVD!
on March 31, 2003
I was cross about Star Trek some while ago, but I can't remember why. I've been re-watching some of the old episodes, and have realized that the quality of the writing was quite distinguishable from the majority of other shows from the same era; Lets face it, America has been in transition since, and this is a glimpse of the remarkable imagination of a generation of older writers, many of whom were unabashed geniuses, certainly visionaries.
They did well here. My wife remembers "Wolf in the fold" as nothing less than really frightening - and even as an adult, its not too easy. How exactly Star Trek could take something so very serious (albeit with heavily veiled violence) into a what was then a quite conservative family show was remarkable.
Wolf In the Fold is very - no, wrong word, - absolutely -compelling. Its all too easy to imagine that in the deep of space, there may be terrors, possibly powers quite malevolent with intentions of their own; and that these have on occasion had a part in human history. The possibility that encounters of this sort would happen to a real space crew is all too real.
The story is brilliantly told, well paced. You only get an idea of what may be the source of the evil at work very slowly. It isn't clear at first - it couldn't possibly be. When it finally is revealed that Scotty is all too likely NOT to be the perpetrators, it is a relief - we all love this man too much for that to be true. Some people have remarked that the ending of "Wolf" is weak - I don't know that that is justified. If you had to have a happy ending, this ending is quite rational, and for goodness sake the boys and girls need to go to bed sometime... The only alternative would have been an ending that would be too awful (I didn't like "Event Horizon" either)
What distinguishes this, and quite a few other stories from Star Trek, is that it woukd stand by itself as an undisputed miniature, even if Star Trek didn't exist as a dramatic vehicle. There, I've said it now.
The doomsday machine is really wonderful. Thank you, Norman Spinrad! I fail to see why the special effects are a problem; the story is wonderful, the tensions and passions are the special effects, and there's a lot of those. Spock excels! A captain of a wrecked ship... a sea monster... Absolutely, Gentlemen. This what its all about, and to that I do testify...
on October 25, 2000
As usual, the 18th volume of the classic Trek series is an exemplary sample of DVD quality, bringing wonderful colors and hues as well as crisp digitally enhanced sound to the series. The saturation level and sharpness are superior to the Paramount laser disc version, (if anyone still collects laser discs). One caveat: Towards the end of Doomsday Machine(one of James Doohan's favorite Trek episodes, about 45 minutes in, Kirk states that he is intending on ramming the U.S.S. Constellation right down the Planet Killer's throat. The camera zooms in on Spock and there is SILENCE, where normally a crescendo of climactic music is supposed to be. This can be heard on the VHS and Laser Disc copies. OOPS! Is this a remixing problem or alternate version? One last thing: Would Paramount please put some extra clips, commentary, bloopers, or something on their DVD's?
on December 3, 2000
The Doomsday Machine is my all-time favorite. The picture quality is superb. However, there's something about these DVD's that bothers me. It's the alterations in the sound effects. In the first season, the Enterprise made a rumbling sound. This was not done in season 2. The DVD's added that sound and a humming to the Consetllation. I assume this is to help make it "in stereo", but I'd rather seen the episodes as originally shot, not tricked up in an effort to "improve" them. Way back in Balence Of Terror, the photon torpedos made no sound. You guys added some! Why screw with it? Just remaster it and leave your "improvements" out of it! Didn't you learn anything from George Lucas' Special Editions? Geez, Star Wars is unwatchable now...
Otherwise, well done (the 5 stars are for the episode, not the "improvements").
on August 13, 2001
Volume 18 of Paramount's complete Classic Trek reissue offers two compelling stories that Spock would probably have referred to as "Fascinating..."
The Doomsday Machine needs no introduction. Even the most casual Trekker is familiar with this episode about a giant unmanned device which consumes planets--and starships--for fuel. The right combination of elements makes this story work stunningly well: a seemingly insurmountable enemy; conflict between the characters; superb, high-tension performances from Shatner, Nimoy, and guest William Windom; "Miracle Worker" Scotty saving the day once more; and a score by Sol Kaplan so riveting that it was used for many episodes thereafter. For the most part, the visual effects hold up well. One exception is the U. S. S. Constellation, which is obviously an off the shelf Enterprise model which has had parts melted away by a cigarette lighter. (Trekker Trivia note: A Next Generation novel, Vendetta, refers to the events in this episode, and contends that the Machine was created by an ancient civilization to defeat the Borg!)
Wolf in the Fold is equally compelling, but on a smaller scale. Montgomery Scott is the focus of this episode, and James Doohan really shines here, proving that he can do much more than merely rattle off accents. This story has contemporary significance in that Scotty is falsely accused of murder, and there seems to be no evidence to prove his innocence. Proving a negative seems to be as difficult in the 23rd Century as it is in the 21st. (Trekker Trivia note: The late Pilar Seurat, appearing as the psychic Sybo, was also the real-life mother of Hollywood producer Dean Devlin.)
Paramount has once again done an excellent job of restoring the film elements. There is a small audio problem in The Doomsday Machine, where a brief portion of the score was omitted (stock music from an earlier episode, not Sol Kaplan's Doomsday Machine score). Nevertheless, this DVD is a must for even the most casual Trekker.
on March 5, 2002
Again another great pairing of classic Trek episodes, where our heroes rely more on pluck and luck than dry technobabble to save the day.
In "The Doomsday Machine", the Enterprise confronts a huge (and apparently unmanned) spaceship that carves up planets (and just about anything else it can find) and consumes the rubble for fuel. Encased in Nuetronium (which I guess means it's essentially invulnerable), the spaceship is shaped like some kind of nightmarish ice cream cone, with a maw "large enough to swallow a dozen starships". Powered by the remains of what it destroys, the Planet Killer remains impervious to harm and capable of annihilating entire star systems as long as any exist to feed it. We learn of the machine from the demented ranting of Commodore Decker, whose ship, the USS Constellation was crippled after barely surviving a run-in with the machine. His crew beamed away to a doomed planet in a futile search for safety, Decker seems as crippled as his ship (though unlike the Constellation, he does not resemble a badly assembled AMT Enterprise model). Now obsessed with destroying the planet-killer, and unhinged enough to think he can pull off with Kirk's ship what he failed to do with his own, Decker commandeers the Enterprise and sets off in hunt of the doomsday machine. Kirk in the meantime, is stranded on Decker's old ship and, with Scotty, must struggle to get some maneuvering and firepower out of her.
This was a great episode, one of those fillers set entirely on a ship and relying on models for exteriors, yet benefits from its small scale. The characters are tense, the action unrelenting and Decker's dementia utterly maddening. I thought the end was a cheat but, until then, you've got a story that keeps you as crazy as poor Commodore Decker.
"Wolf in the Fold" concerns a different sort of dementia, that of Chief Engineer Scott, the apparent murderer of the lovely Kara (Tanya Lemani), a cabaret dancer from the sybaritic pleasure-planet of Argelius. Written by Robert Bloch, the story incorporates supernatural overtones, but relies on no small amount of seeming detective work. The story especially excels on its inspired casting of character actor John Fiedler, perfect as the laughably innocuous small man who holds the key to a dark evil. Fiedler was also the voice of the ceaselessly neurotic Piglet in all those old Winnie the Pooh cartoons, and his apparent lack of menace highlights this tale of a shapeless and insatiable evil unleashed upon the unsuspecting Argelians like a wolf at loose in a fold of helpless sheep.
on November 5, 2000
Ranking alongside Balance of Terror, Doomsday Machine has story, pace and acting underpinned by a great score. Washing-up liquid bottle Constellation and half a cucumber pleads for it to be remade with proper effects (and to consistent scale!). Some classic Spock logic, McCoy's reaction to it (I'll certify that right now!) and infamous Scotty scamper up the conduit to repair the transporter tripping its breakers are stuff of legend. What was his muttered curse, anyhow?
As to Wolf in the Fold, the threesome impishly on the prowl and the portrayal of the 'free love' society are interesting given the Vietnam era with conflict between local and offshore execution of justice. One wonders if the being feeding on fear to survive was really expressing other parallels from that time.
on June 2, 2001
Paramount has done an INCREDIBLE job of restoring and remastering this great episode--"The Doomsday Machine." It seems clear that an entirely new music track has been assembled for this disk, remastered from the original recording masters. The power of Sol Kaplan's incredible score comes through in a way never heard before. The sound effects and dialogue have also been lovingly remixed: there is depth and clear layers to the sound. All of which simply adds to one of the best shows "Trek" ever did--a great performance by William Windon, terrific writing, and some truly ambitious effects work for series television. (I don't agree that the FX are "cheesy," except for a few rear shots of the Constellation that reveal it to be an AMT model kit!)
on November 4, 2000
I've always considered "The Doomsday Machine" to be my favorite Trek episode, and when I received the DVD and played it, I was thoroughly happy with the picture quality, color, and sound. Paramount did a first rate job with this episode. You can hear background sounds that were not there on the video release, and the stereo remaster is excellent. There is one "omission" of music in the last act which was surprising, but I felt it was an actual improvement in the episode. Very good DVD to buy....